Cebu Archbishop Jose S. Palma said he is setting the stage for the division of the Archdiocese of Cebu for the next prelate to handle. Palma told reporters at the sidelines of the National Retreat for Priests 2023 that he was not rushing the move, describing these talks as a “misimpression.”

“I am used to preparing and somebody continues,” Palma said. He recounted how he was assigned to Calbayog and was busy preparing for the centenary of the diocese in 2010 but was pulled out in 2006. He was Archbishop of Palo and was preparing for the 7th anniversary of the archdiocese when he was transferred to Cebu.

Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma speaks during the National Retreat for Priests 2023 currently being held at the ICR Convention Center in Cebu City. Credit: The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cebu

“In November, we will have the assembly and after that in January I will present this to the bishops and whatever their comments, I will forward to Rome,” Palma said. He said he will retire the year after.

“I will be happy kung madayon kung hindi man, no big deal,” Palma said. (I will be happy if it is approved. If not, it’s no big deal.)

Suggestion of nuncio

Palma also said that Sugbuswak, the name of the move to break up the Archdiocese of Cebu, started with Apostolic Nuncio Gabriele Giordano Caccia, who served in the Philippines from 2017 to 2019.

“When we went to Limasawa, we had a good talk in the boat and he said, Archbishop Palma, perhaps it’s about time to divide Cebu,” Palma said.

“I know at the back of my mind that he has visited more than 60 dioceses. He has made it possible to create around 20 bishops, Which is one way of saying he knows the Philippines … and he knows the situation of the country,” Palma said.

Palma said that once he returned from a meeting in Rome with Pope Francis, Caccia asked him whether he raised the issue of the division of the archdiocese. Palma said that he explained to the nuncio that he wasn’t able to do so because “it was the Pope who picked the topic of the discussions.”

When Caccia left the country for his new assignment, Palma said he knew he had to work on the division of the archdiocese because this was likely included in the report of the outgoing nuncio and that his predecessor would follow it up.

‘Almost like coming from the Pope’

“Now one time, Monsignor Jimboy asked (retired Papal Nuncio Osvaldo Padilla), he said Papal Nuncio, when the suggestion comes from the nuncio what is its weight? And Papal Nuncio Padilla said when it comes from the nuncio, it is almost like coming from the Pope. It is the nuncio. And so until then, I did not realize it is that weighty no, as if it comes from the Pope,” Palma told reporters.

He said that “we consult, we discern but always at the back of my mind” that while other voices are important, the voice of the nuncio has a different weight.

Palma also said that although there were proposals to study the division of the archdiocese during the time of the late Cardinal Vidal, no document was submitted to the Vatican.
“It was all shelved” because it was overtaken by events and calamities that the archdiocese had to deal with, Palma said.

“It starts with me. Because what was floated before, nothing happened,” Palma added.

Max Limpag is a journalist, blogger, and developer based in Cebu. He started as a reporter covering Cebu City Hall in 1996. He has written on technology for various print and digital publications since...